The BP oil leak is the most urgent probem currently facing the United States
and potentially the rest of the world.
The pressing question is not how to punish BP, or to locate other wells, or to
find alternative energy sources, but to STOP THE LEAK.
Obama is framing the problem as BP's, and of determining whose "ass to kick."
The problem and responsibility is the entire oil industry's, including companies
that are less directly culpable than BP. He has the authority under the
and the Oil Pollution Act to declare a state of emergency and commandeer the
resources of the entire oil industry, and possibly other industries, to fix the
Two relief wells are currently being drilled, but it is going slowly. There was a
dispute between the government and BP about drilling a second well, because
BP claimed they didn't have enough equipment.
Although the government eventually prevailed, if more companies were
involved there would be plenty of equipment available.
There is now reported damage under the sea floor which will require additional
An interview with the Columbia military technology analyst Christopher
Brownfield in yesterday's NYT describes a proposal to use a conventional (i.e.
non-nuclear) detonation to seal the well:
Brownfield suggests that the government is being unduly deferential to BP's
property rights in the oil. Obama's perspective on the problem as one that BP
alone needs to fix represents the same private enterprise-centered mentality
in even more general terms. He is the only one who can possibly stop the leak
(assuming it is possible to stop), but only by temporarily taking control of
private companies. Is he really going to let huge portions of the ecosystem go
to hell rather than do this?